A Handful of Just-Right 5-Mile Hikes in the Bay Area
Sonoma Coast State Park (Courtesy of @californiaoutdoorrec)

A Handful of Just-Right 5-Mile Hikes in the Bay Area


Excellent hikes come in all sizes; a quick in-and-out can be just as memorable as a full day on the trail.

But sometimes the best hike falls in between—a couple of hours that are easily accomplished in a morning or afternoon.

Not too long and not too short, five-mile trails are just right. They’re enough to take in some natural beauty and get your heart pumping, but not so much you have to set aside an entire day to make them happen.

From the Sonoma Coast to the Santa Cruz Mountains, these (approximately) five-mile hikes are the best the Bay has to offer.

Sonoma Coast State Park: Red Hill via Pomo Canyon Trail

(Courtesy of @katedarcykula)

Meander across Jenner’s windswept coastal cliffs on this five miler at Sonoma Coast State Park. The lollipop loop begins at Shell Beach, where the sea stacks stretch to Goat Rock and beyond. From the Pomo Canyon Trailhead, hike east towards Red Hill Trail. It’ll swing you around to the north, framing the mouth of the Russian River like a painting, before circling back towards the parking lot on the Pomo Canyon Trail. // 3095 CA-1 (Bodega Bay), parks.ca.gov

Sunol Wilderness Regional Preserve: Canyon View to Little Yosemite

(Courtesy of @kw.nature)

This hike amid the rolling hills and oak groves of the Sunol Wilderness Regional Preserve skirts the park’s southern edge and the canyon they affectionately call Little Yosemite. While it’s not quite as grand as its namesake, the outcroppings of serpentine and sandstone from which rivulets of water cascade in rainy months, is a pretty place to stretch your legs (and a whole lot closer than the real deal). Pick up the trail at the Canyon View Trailhead near the visitor center, following it into the canyon alongside Alameda Creek before looping back around on Camp Ohlone Road and the McCorckle Trail. // 1895 Geary Rd. (Sunol), ebparks.org

Land of the Medicine Buddha: Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail

(Courtesy of @nehasawant777)

People come from all over to visit the Land of the Medicine Buddha, a spiritual retreat in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains. But you don’t have to attend a seminar to take advantage of their Eight Verses Pilgrimage Trail. The loop through pristine redwood forest is a form of meditation all its own, with the Buddha’s teachings posted every so often to inspire contemplation and acceptance. The trail begins and ends at the Land of the Medicine Buddha (be sure to park in the day visitor section, not the part reserved for guests of the retreat) and be forewarned: You’ll need the patience and forgiveness of the spiritual master himself to find a spot at peak weekend times. // 5800 Prescott Rd. (Soquel), landofmedicinebuddha.org

Mount Diablo State Park: Eagle Peak via Mitchell Rock Trail

(Courtesy of @woodyvw9)

A sentinel over the East Bay, Mount Diablo offers some of the best views the Bay offers. The out-and-back Eagle Peak via Mitchell Rock Trail hurdles you towards them, progressing from woodland chaparral to grassy savannah to craggy crest and back down again. Pick up the route from the Eagle Creek Trailhead and keep a couple things in mind: 1) If you’re hiking in summer, go early - there’s not much here to keep you from frying in the hot hot sun; and 2) Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the peak’s resident tarantulas will be out in search of love in the late afternoons in September and October. // 96 Mitchell Canyon Rd (Clayton), parks.ca.gov

Castle Rock State Park: Saratoga Gap and Ridge Trail Loop

(Courtesy of @castlerock_sp)

On clear days, the forest stretches all the way to the sea on this trail through Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The hike begins with a descent into lush redwood forest along the Saratoga Gap Trail, a path that’s punctuated with an overlook of the occasionally awesome Castle Rock Falls. The drama builds from there as you scramble across the ridge’s rocky spine, waves of blue and green cresting across the hills at your feet. The route circles through a bit of forest before sending you over a clutch of massive then back through the redwoods to the parking lot. // 15451 CA-35 (Los Gatos), parks.ca.gov

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